James McNeill Whistler

1834 - 19031 artwork

About the artist

James Abbott McNeil Whistler (10 July 1834 – 17 July 1903) was an American born artist who was based in Britain and active during the American Gilded Age. Averse to sentimentality and moral allusion in painting, he was a leading proponent of the credo ”Art for art’s sake”. He was famous for his signature in the shape of a stylised butterfly possessing a long stinger for a tail. The... Read moreJames Abbott McNeil Whistler (10 July 1834 – 17 July 1903) was an American born artist who was based in Britain and active during the American Gilded Age.

Averse to sentimentality and moral allusion in painting, he was a leading proponent of the credo ”Art for art’s sake”. He was famous for his signature in the shape of a stylised butterfly possessing a long stinger for a tail. The signature was apt as it combined both Whistler’s combative public character and the subtle delicacy portrayed in his work.

Whistler was always trying to find a parallel between painting and music which meant an emphasis on the primacy of tonal harmony in what he called “arrangements”, “harmonies” and “nocturnes”. Through his friendships and relationships with many of the leading artists and writers of his time Whistler managed to influence the broader culture and art world of his time.

His most famous painting is "Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1" (1871), commonly known as Whistler's Mother, the revered and oft-parodied portrait of motherhood.

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